Call for Sanctions on Guyana Gov't over Electoral Fraud
| Dr Vishnu Bisram, Political Analyst, Guyana - 29 Apr 2020

By Dr Vishnu Bisram and Dr. Tara Singh*

Human rights groups and champions of free and fair elections are calling for sanctions against targeted individuals of the Guyana government over electoral fraud of that South American nation’s general elections held on March 2. Some half of the population of Guyana comprises people of Indian ancestry; their fore-parents came to Guyana between 1838 and 1917 as girmit laborers.

Some eight weeks after elections were held, there is still no official winner. Voters charge that the victory of the party they support will be stolen unless the international community imposes sanctions on the government. The government, headed by Ret'd army Brigadier President David Granger, who visited India in March 2018, has denied any wrongdoing.

The call for sanctions is spearheaded by the Guyana Democracy Project and Save Guyana Democracy. The groups appeal to supporters of democracy to urge their governments to pressure the Guyana government to come clean on the elections count.

International observers from the OAS (Organization of American States), CARICOM (Caribbean Community), Carter Center (headed by Jason Carter, grandson of ex US President Jimmy Carter), Commonwealth Observer Mission, European Union, UN, and the embassies of Canada, U.K, and US praised the voting but condemned the counting of ballots as fraudulent. Local observers including the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce, Private Sector Commission, Guyana Human Rights Association, American Chamber of Commerce, Guyana Bar Association and several business regional chambers also described the vote counting as fraudulent and have appealed for a correct tabulation of the ballots. Observers and diplomats say the governing party lost the election. The matter gained the intervention of the court that supported a recount of ballots. 

The ruling APNU-AFC regime in collusion with the election agency, GECOM, is delaying the recount process negotiated by the regional organization of Caribbean states, Caricom. The recount was agreed upon by the APNU-AFC and opposition PPPC leadership and supported by the eight minor parties. To date, the PPP/C has agreed to all the requested measures put forth by GECOM for a recount, only to have them modified or simply abandoned. There are only 470,000 ballots to be re-counted and Gecom says it needs 25 days to carry out the task. No date has been fixed to commence the recount.

APNU-AFC stopped the counting of the ballots on March 4 when it was imminent that the PPP/C, led by opposition leader and former President Bharrat Jagdeo, has won a majority of the valid votes cast by a comfortable margin (53%-46%) according to statements of polls posted at polling stations. Ballots from 9 of the 10 regions in the country were counted, tabulated, and authenticated via Statement of Polls (SOPs) by election officials and party representatives, and signed by the Gecom returning officers in the presence of foreign observers. The tabulation of votes for one region (Region 4) was halfway completed and was aborted after it became apparent that the APNU-AFC had lost the elections.

All observer missions and all opposition political parties said the abutting of Region 4 tabulation was an attempt to change the election results in favor of the loser, APNU-AFC. The government of India has not strongly condemned the fraud.

The APNU-AFC leadership had invited a High-Level team from Caricom to oversee and validate the recount of all ten regions, but the team withdrew and left the country because APNU-AFC party filed an injunction to prevent the recount on March 15. The team included Chief Electoral Officer of Barbados, a former Finance Minister of Grenada, a former Attorney General of Dominica, the Chief Elections Officer of Trinidad and Tobago, and a Professor of University of West Indies Department of Government.

The proposed duration of the recount is 25 days with no start up date being provided by Gecom. There are serious questions about the credibility of some top level Gecom staff who have been involved in the attempts to rig the results. Public trust is severely lacking and Guyanese are fearful that the recount process would not be credible and transparent. It is this real fear of compromised staff and delaying tactics employed by Gecom and the government that caused over 6,500 Guyanese to sign a petition asking the US government to impose sanctions on individuals who have been trying to subvert the tabulation process and therefore deprive the democratic rights of people to have a government of their choice. Guyanese remain skeptical about the impending recount process. The US, Canada, UK, and EU threatened serious consequences if a government is sworn in based on a fraudulent outcome. Guyanese proponents of democracy want sanctions now feeling sanctions would force Gecom and APNU-AFC operators to walk straight, allow a fair count, with the real winner declared after the recount. 

Image courtesy - Al Jazeera / New America / Google 

Dr Bisram is an educator, senior journalist, and psephologist and writes extensively on the Indian Diaspora.

*(Dr Tara Singh, a former Senior lecturer of the University of Guyana, a cultural and human rights activist in New York and President of the Guyana Democracy Project, contributed to this article.)


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